Gunfight at Islamic Terrorist Hideout in Sri Lanka
15 Dead in Sir Lankan Security Forces’ Raid in Kalmunai
Sri Lankan security forces have exchanged gunfire with an armed group in Kalmunai in the eastern region of the country.
A military spokesman says 15 bodies, including six children, were found in the house where the gun battle took place late Friday.
The Daily Mirror, a Sri Lankan newspaper, reported there was also an explosion when the forces “attempted to search a suspicious man.”
Evidence of Islamic State Involvement
The military found a cache of 150 sticks of gelignite (an explosive jelly), an Islamic State uniform, steel pellets, and a drone, according to the newspaper. A laptop and a van were also found.
A curfew has been imposed on Sri Lankans from 10 p.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Saturday.
National Tawheed Jamath
Speaking at a press conference, Health Minister and the government spokesman, Rajitha Senaratne, said that a local group identified as the National Tawheed Jamath (or National Thowheed Jamath) – a radical Muslim group – is suspected of plotting the deadly explosions. “There may be international links to them,” he added.
The NTJ has not admitted carrying out the wave of bombings which tore through the island, killing at least 250 people. On Tuesday, the Islamic State (IS) group said its militants had carried out the attacks, but did not provide any details.
As is often the case with Islamic terrorist groups, there appears to be no consensus on the exact the name of the group in English, giving rise to several variations: National Tawheed Jamath; National Thowheed Jamath; or even National Thowheeth Jama’ath. In Arabic the name is جماعة التوحيد الوطنية, transliterated as Jamā‘at at-Tawḥīd al-Waṭanīyah, meaning “National Monotheism Organization”.
National Tawheed Jamath is believed to have splintered off from another hardline Islamist group in the country, the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath (SLTJ). The director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism said that it “aims to spread the global jihadist movement to Sri Lanka and to create hatred, fear and divisions in society.”
Moulvi Zahran Hashim, a radical Islamist imam believed to be the mastermind behind the Sri Lanka bombings, preached on a pro-Islamic State Facebook account, known as “Al-Ghuraba” media, and on YouTube.
Further Islamic Extremist Attacks Feared
Catholic leaders in Sri Lanka canceled Sunday Masses across the country as officials cited the possibility of more attacks on the island, nearly a week after the deadly Easter suicide bombings in churches and hotels carried out by Muslim extremists.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith asked the faithful throughout Sri Lanka to stay home for their own safety, saying “We don’t want repetitions.”
On Friday, thousands of Sri Lankan security personnel were deployed across the country to places of worship, as Muslims answered the call to prayer.
Although the terrorist attacks targeted Christians and hotels frequented by foreigners, news agencies around the world quoted a Muslim, 48-year-old Abdullah Mohammed, speaking before Friday prayers: “Everyone is nervous, not just the Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus — everybody’s nervous.”
The warning comes days after a devastating attack on churches and hotels on Sunday in the capital, Colombo, in which suicide bombers killed more than 250 people. Officials had earlier set the death toll at more than 350 but revised the number on Thursday, saying some of the bodies may have been counted twice.
Sri Lankan officials say the suspected mastermind of the attacks, Zahran Hashim, was killed in the attack on the Shangri-La Hotel.
The U.S. State Department, Friday, raised the travel advisory level for Sri Lanka to three out of four, meaning that visitors should reconsider traveling to the country. It said “Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka” and that terrorists could again target places of worship as well as other public areas, including shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, sporting events and parks.
The U.S. Embassy in Colombo urged people to “remain vigilant and avoid large crowds,” on its official Twitter account.